Gadget of the Week – Nintendo Virtual Boy

In case you have never heard of the Nintendo Virtual Boy, let us first inform you that it is not a new product from Nintendo, in fact, it is one of the oldest. From the looks of it, we are sure you would have guessed that it is one of those virtual reality consoles and said “Sigh, don’t we have enough of those virtual reality consoles floating around already?”

But as it turns out, the Nintendo Virtual Boy was released in 1995, when it was considered weird and alien. It was a bold attempt from Nintendo to step into the game so early, but sadly, the gaming giant did not get it right.

It is very true that although the device gave spikes of excitement trembling down the nerves of gamers, all that excitement quickly turned into disappointment as the users started gaming with the console. Users also reported backache due to the hunchback pose they had while playing games with the Virtual Boy console.

Design, Build and the Controller

The overall build and coloring of the device is rather childish with the rear of the headgear painted in red and the front painted in black along with the rubber foam eye pads. We don’t mean to offend any of you Nintendo lovers out there, but to us, it does look like some kind of a bright plastic tiffin box (and that’s not bad, who hates food!).

Nintendo VIrtual Boy headgear is some great technologyThe Nintendo Virtual Boy headgear also has two leg stands which can be used as support. The controller feels rather sturdy and has a great feel to it, it has two directional pads on the left and right and four buttons on the front. The controller also houses 6 AA batteries which power the console for a short 5 hours, but Nintendo does have an AC adapter and unfortunately, that’s not included in the package. The controller is attached to the headgear through a cable, wireless technology wasn’t as prevalent in those days.

Display

The display on the headgear of the Nintendo Virtual Boy had a measly resolution of 1 x 224 and that’s not a typing mistake, but fortunately enough, it has two displays to give that 3D effect which has been renowned for the headache aftermaths.

That is how a Nintendo Virtual Boy Gameplay looked

The Nintendo Virtual Boy also packs in a pair of Oscillating mirrors which moves back and forth to render a complete 2D image. The gaming device is itself 32-bit and can handle 32 shades, but only of red, not gray. Apparently, the entire display is constructed of LEDs and red was the only inexpensive option available at that time (we don’t really blame Nintendo here, LEDs did take their time to become affordable and colorful).

While the physical resolution may seem very limiting and something that’s just inherently incapable of handling gaming, it should be noted that this is not its actual resolution. In fact, the oscillating mirrors and dual perspective of the display offers it an effective resolution of 384×224 which is what your eyes actually see. Its effective resolution also puts it on top of the of Nintendo DS, DSi and DSi XL all of which had a resolution of 256×192 each.

Processor and gaming

The Nintendo Virtual Boy had a 20 MHz NEC processor, which was a 32-bit chipset that was pretty good at its time. The processor had a total memory capacity of 320 KB on which 16 MB gaming cartridges were inserted through the bottom. The titles were generally better than the SNES, but not  nearly as good as the Nintendo N64 which got released after a year.

Gaming on the Nintendo Virtual Boy was not all that bad and while the 3D effect didn’t exist, it was neither as pronounced nor immersive. We know that we are dealing with a display that’s hardly VGA grade and has only 2 colors, but for something that cost 180 USD back in the 1995s, its certainly a big deal. The famous gaming titles of the Nintendo Virtual Boy are Mario Tennis (came included in the box), Vertical force and Galactic Pinball.

Our Verdict

To be honest, we are amazed by the boldness of Nintendo to actually go ahead and release this console even when it knew that the vastly superior Nintendo N64 was just a year away. Whether you like it or not, it is also true that the Nintendo Virtual Boy will always be the grand-daddy of the Virtual Reality gaming arena.

But at $180 USD, it just didn’t have enough oomph to sell and as you would expect this was one of Nintendo’s worst failures. But nevertheless they did bounce back with the N64 and plenty other consoles.

With that said, the Nintendo Virtual Boy will always remain a piece of history, not for its success, but for the boldness and unconventional attitude that it carried with it.

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